Teeny Montana and Pussybaby. Photos by Mateo

PRINCE$$ 4 PRINCE$$ Part 2

By Ahmad Jackson

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So you said you’re heading back to the Sanctuary after this?

PB We’re just heading back into the woods to regroup and try to process what’s happened in the last two weeks. Rest and not worry about walking into a gas station restroom and being assaulted. I’m tired of silly stares.

Considering future projects here. Are you gonna continue with the Princess theme to your aesthetics?

PB Part of our aesthetic and lifestyle is helping people process what they were told as a child is not okay. Like reality deprogramming: it’s okay for a boy to like the color pink and girl to like the color blue. Growing up, I was never allowed to watch anything with magic, and Disney was the devil, and now I’m infatuated with Disney. There’s this twisted view about how we’re obsessed with Barbie and Cinderella and a world that we and lot of other people weren’t allowed to explore, and I feel that’s part of why our work makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. They ask, “Why are you obsessed with kids stuff? Don’t you wanna grow up?” But they don’t see from a trans perspective.Take Caitlyn Jenner. Despite her physical age, she’s probably one of the youngest trans girls because she’s just transitioned. In a similar vein, we’re living our childhood again.
T.M. Yeah, we didn’t get to live the childhood we deserved, and we’ve both had pretty hard lives. We’re trying to get back to that innocence, but with what we’ve been through, it’s tainted. It’s not the same, and I think that’s what disturbs people--they can feel the suffering of children and the suffering of something that is ‘other’ than children--it’s all about trying to get back that innocence and forcing the person to look at it long enough to find the beauty and innocence.
PB I feel like a lot of people take that privilege of growing up with that stuff for granted. And I want to have that type of fun because I was never allowed to. I grew up in church, and I ended up not doing well in school because I was different, and I knew I was different, and I was not okay with my lot. I’d alway play with my sister’s stuff--steal her Barbies because I was never allowed to have my own. I was never allowed to do certain things. When they put me in this “gay” category--this “faggot” category--it felt like, “That’s not actually who I am. I’m a trans woman. Why should I try to be something I’m not--something you hate?” And that’s why I didn’t get to go to my sister’s wedding...It’d make them happier if I was a gay man. It makes them uncomfortable but they can “get” that. They can’t understand the girls’ clothes or the crowns--the princess stuff. They don’t get it. They can’t see it, can’t understand it--they’re so traumatized since the world can’t see it either.
T.M. That’s part of the aesthetic in the patterns and the checkers--all the visually disruptive things in the installations. It’s reprogramming people--forcing them to look at that and see it again We’re embodying purity as hard as we can in our installations; afterwards, we have to go to the woods to decompress because it’s actually a lot of work to dress the way we do and live the lifestyle we do. We’re constantly having people think we’re revolting for it.
PB I feel visually assaulting because people make me visually assaulting. That amps me up to make myself feel more beautiful. That’s why those skins are so incredible. I feel like myself when I put the bodysuits on. It’s like instant hormones for me; I feel more femme when I put a pattern or a new look.

You feel like the bodysuits wipe the slate clean--gives you a tabula rasa to put your own identity projection?

T.M. It’s always been a spell for me. I’ve had the bodysuits for years, and I’ve done a lot of art and public appearances with them. People project onto them because there’s no face and the pattern is disruptive. You wouldn’t believe the things people say to you on the streets. It’s like they’re talking to a dog or an animal that can’t really understand them; they negate the person inside the suit because they can’t see it to understand it
Me It’s like Freud’s “Uncanny.” People need a face to humanize--to assign emotions and thoughts, consciousness and connection.
PB And when you show your face in the suit, you’re totally vulnerable.
T.M. And you’re speaking through your body when your face is covered. It’s the only way they can get cues on your intent--like a mime. As a trans person, your existence is defined through your sexuality. When your face is covered, your whole body is covered, but you’re also a naked form. It’s an example of how you’re constantly speaking to people through the lens of your sexuality because when they’re looking at you, that’s really the only thing they’re thinking about.
PB Also, I feel that lot of trans girls have to travel because a lot of trans people don’t have housing. Look at what happened in Orlando. They misgendered a lot of those people. Especially trans women of color.
Me The deaths have skyrocketed in these last two years!
T.M. It’s never been this bad before...With being a Latin person--coming from Cuban culture--the message always being taught to immigrant families coming to the country is “Assimilate! Assimilate! Assimilate!” Assimilate the ideals of a male person; hence, the Latin machismo--the big cars, tattoos, sports and blah, blah, blah. I get a lot of flak from people, especially from people of color and queer people of color, for going so deep in an aesthetic that is very dominantly white. Disney has its own system of oppression, so they ask why am I using that aesthetic.
Me To be fair, Disney carries quite the Aryan background.
T.M. Totally. But my stance is that there isn’t a space in my own culture for this. I’ve found a safe space that says...
PB All girls are princesses...
T.M. I couldn’t find a space like that in the Cuban culture, and despite whatever the fuck is happening in the US right now, it’s always been the land of opportunity. I’m gonna embrace whatever aesthetic I need to embrace in order to feel femme. It’s like queering and racially queering the aesthetic of the Disney princess. Except Ariel--Ariel’s totally trans.

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Part I